The year 1889 was a noteworthy one for doctors in São Paulo, who numbered no more than 100 statewide. They witnessed not only the proclamation of the Republic but also the establishment of the Revista Médica de São Paulo (São Paulo medical journal), the first periodical to feature topics meant to be read and debated by healthcare professionals. By the time the São Paulo School of Medicine and Surgery had been founded in 1912, another 14 publications that addressed medical subjects had come along, although these same journals also gave space to other matters as well, which their editors saw as indispensible to the greater progress of São Paulo and its people. “The powers-that-be, in the context of what was then a new republican reality, forged tight bonds with the government’s healthcare sectors,” says Márcia Regina Barros da Silva, historian of science at the University of São Paulo’s School of Philosophy, Language and Literature, and the Humanities (FFLCH/USP).
Schools of medicine had been created in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador in 1808 and medical journals were published in these two cities even before 1889. In the first half of the 19th century alone, Rio de Janeiro boasted five periodicals specialized in health, the first dating to 1827: Propagador das Ciências Médicas (Disseminator of medical sciences). In Salvador, the Gazeta Médica da Bahia (Bahia medical gazette), founded in 1866, gained renown when it began showcasing the ideas on tropical medicine championed by the Tropicalist School of Medicine of Bahia. But in São Paulo the process was inverted: it was the journals that helped impel the establishment of a medical course at the higher education level.
Since there was no physical space in São Paulo where teachers and students of medicine could gather, some physicians founded periodicals and used their pages for discussions. “These journals featured articles that talked about the profession, voiced opinions about the training that a healthcare professional should receive, examined São Paulo’s public health needs, and addressed a multitude of other subjects that were part of the academic debate,” says Silva, who is also president of the Brazilian Society of the History of Science. These topics appeared in the journals alongside communiqués, reports on diseases, scientific articles, and translations that served to disseminate information on new knowledge and advances in medicine.
Of the fifteen periodicals published prior to 1912, the Revista Médica de São Paulo (1889-1890); Revista Médica de S. Paulo: jornal prático de medicina, cirurgia e higiene (São Paulo medical journal: a practical journal of medicine, surgery, and hygiene) (1898-1914); and Gazeta Clínica (Clinical gazette) (1903-1954) were the only three financed and edited by independent physicians; all others had links to São Paulo health institutions. Directed by Augusto César Miranda de Azevedo, Francisco de Paula Souza Tibiriçá, and Luiz José de Mello Oliveira, the first of the three came out every two weeks and was 32 pages long. The owner of the second was Victor Godinho, a doctor with the Sanitary Service, while the third was edited by Bernardo de Magalhães, José Prudente de Moraes Barros, João Alves de Lima, Xavier da Silveira, and Rubião Meira.
In the final 20 years of the 19th century, a number of institutions emerged that reorganized health care in São Paulo. These included the new Mercy Hospital (1885), the Sanitary Service (1892), and the Society of Medicine and Surgery (1895). With the exception of the three journals mentioned above, the periodicals were all born from their ties to these and other institutions, such as the Revista Farmacêutica (Pharmaceutical journal), which was put out by the Society of Pharmacy; Coletânea de Trabalhos do Instituto Butantan (Collected works of the Butantan Institute); and Revista da Sociedade Scientífica de São Paulo (Journal of the São Paulo Scientific Society). The periodicals often presented articles by the era’s most eminent doctors, like Luiz Pereira Barreto, Adolfo Lutz, Emílio Ribas, Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho, Vital Brazil, and Rubião Meira.
When the School of Medicine was founded – one of the schools which was to give birth to USP in 1934 – most of the new medical and healthcare journals became connected to some department or service within the institution. New times also called for new and more specialized means of communication that would drive the circulation of academic work and serve as a space where one could learn something about the ongoing transformations taking place in biomedical knowledge in the first half of the 20th century.